Country singer Garth Brooks asks the audience at home to sing along to his performance of ‘Amazing Grace’ on Inauguration Day.
Garth Brooks plucked a Detroit Lions flag embellished with “Detroit loves Garth” from the 70,000-plus crowd at Ford Field in Detroit and hoisted it into the air as he left the stage. The date was Feb. 22, 2020, and despite the temperature hovering around freezing, sweat saturated his Barry Sanders jersey and exhaustion radiated to his bones.
The show was in-the-round, the stage was flat and Brooks often finished songs with his hands on his knees heaving air. The concert reviews lauded his 31-song performance, but Brooks felt like the audience kicked his butt and handed it to him.
He planned to get in shape before his next stadium show in May 2020, but by mid-March, the country was in the throes of a COVID-19 shutdown. Nearly 18 months later, Brooks finally has his chance.
The Garth Brooks Stadium Tour relaunches July 10 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The tour has grown to include Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Nissan Stadium in Brooks’ adopted hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. Tickets for the July 31 Music City show go on sale Friday through Ticketmaster.
“I think the greatest teacher in life is losing,” Brooks said. “I knew we were going to knock them down in Detroit, but my thing was never let them get up. They not only got up, but they got on top of me. I wanted to get right back in the ring. Fast forward a year-and-a-half-later – I’m ready.”
Brooks started his stadium tour March 9, 2019, at The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis. Until now, the 18 stadiums on the tour averaged 70,000 tickets sold per show. They’ve sold out and set attendance records for either entertainment or overall capacity. More cities will be announced in the coming weeks.
Brooks’ stadium tour is among the first in the U.S. to resume shows. Each concert will be sold at full capacity, but the singer’s manager Bob Doyle explained the team didn’t count on post-COVID-19 sellouts. He described a feeling of hopelessness during the pandemic because most artists have control over their lives, but COVID-19 and its repercussions couldn’t be contained.
“You couldn’t say, ‘This doesn’t affect me’ because it affected everybody,” Doyle said. “It was just one of those moments where all we could do was hunker down and try and be safe.”
Brooks’ team is approaching the tour’s relaunch the same way. Guinness World Records’ most successful country recording artist of all time, Brooks has an internal policy to keep his band and crew healthy. The stadiums will provide masks for concertgoers, and Brooks encourages his fans to be kind to each other and do what they must to feel safe in the environment.
“Somebody has got to take the first step,” said Brooks, whose hits include “Friends in Low Places” and “The Dance.” “The thing that’s going to ease your anxiety the most is to know it’s done right. Are these people taken care of when they come in the stadium?”
His fans are ready.
“I think we have all felt so shut down for so long,” explained Andrea Rizk, a 44-year-old Nashville PR consultant who saw Brooks for the first time when she was 13. She plans to buy tickets to his Nissan Stadium show in Nashville when they go on sale Friday.
“I think that standing in a stadium full of people singing the same words to the same songs, and Garth, his energy is so infectious and he attracts an audience that is all colors, creeds, sizes, shapes, everything. I know personally that I am so ready to be in that environment again. Music is such a unifier, and I think as a country we are super desperate for that.”
Garth is returning to the road, but he was never out of sight of fans
As longtime tour promoter Ben Farrell worked through 2020 to keep the tour on track, Brooks kept busy entertaining fans from a distance. In March of 2020, Brooks was honored with The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. To distract fans from daunting headlines, Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood livestreamed a concert on Facebook that attracted so many viewers the site crashed multiple times. Later in March, they delivered the first of two CBS television specials from their living room. That summer, Brooks prerecorded a concert to play at 300 drive-in theaters around the country and ended up attracting more than 350,000 fans. He stayed connected with his audience during his Facebook livestreams “Inside Studio G.” Brooks surfaced again on Jan. 20, when he delivered an a cappella version of “Amazing Grace” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration. And, he was recognized with a tribute at the Kennedy Center Honors a few weeks ago.
“All the stars lined up and we feel very, very lucky that that happened for us,” Brooks said. “To be one of the first people out to step into the stadiums, it’s an honor, but also it’s a great responsibility. I owe it to this country to hopefully be some kind of example on doing things the right way.”
He’s determined to step up his game following Detroit. Brooks has worked out for several months and has visibly lost weight. The singer and his band are already in rehearsals, and he plans to head to Sin City at least a week before the July 10 relaunch to practice the show in Allegiant Stadium. He knows nothing can replicate the energy he’ll glean from the audience when the lights drop. At that point, he said, “All your planning … it all goes out the window.”
The nightly goal is to make country’s most cavernous venues feel like cozy honkytonks.
In the most obvious way, that’s accomplished by supersizing the set so that people on the last row feel like they’re down in front. As an entertainer, it means making eye contact with audience members and watching their stories unfold during each song.
“You just go and dig them out,” Brooks said. “It’s the greatest pizza you’ll ever eat, a joy in every bite. My thing is just keep looking for those people, and at 80,000, it’s going to take you all night to find each one.”
Garth wants fans to leave his show feeling united: Music is ‘a great healer’
Brooks only wants people to come to a concert if they’re ready.
“The pandemic and how we move through it, and hopefully on from it, is at your own pace,” he said.
The rescheduled shows and the tour’s new COVID-19-induced routing put added strain on his band and crew. Brooks, 59, admitted that due to his age and the workload a stadium tour places on his team – the Garth Brooks Stadium Tour would likely be his last run in the country’s largest venues.
“It’d be the ‘Wheelchair and Walker Tour,” he quipped, adding he’d love to do a tour of dive bars, honkytonks, or possibly another Las Vegas residency. “But, the stadium tour now is back up and running and we’re just enjoying it while it’s here.”
The Garth Brooks Stadium Tour will culminate in late summer of 2022, and he promised the grandest send-offs. The details are still a secret.
In the meantime, he wants to bet back to the original goal of “people leaving that stadium loving each other more than when they got there.”
“Let’s show up and watch what happens,” Brooks said. “Music is a great unifier, but it’s also a great healer.”
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